Business Ethics In Supplier Diversity

Your company sponsors a golf tournament, and instead of inviting business partners, you allow your spouse and three buddies to participate, or you fill the company’s corporate hospitality suite with your friends and family. A supplier offers you floor seats for a sporting event in exchange for information about an upcoming Request for Proposal. It’s not a big deal, right?

Supplier diversity professionals are entrusted with a great deal of responsibility. We have a responsibility to the company we work for and to the suppliers we work with.

Following the corporation’s business ethics guidelines will ensure that suppliers, diversity professionals and the company succeed.

You may be familiar with a statement like the following in your company’s code of ethics:

“All suppliers and the employees who work with suppliers are expected to conduct themselves with the highest standard of honesty, fairness and personal integrity. It is critical to the company’s stature to maintain high ethical standards by adhering to all applicable laws and avoiding even the perception of impropriety or conflict of interest.”

Most corporations have similar statements, and it is imperative that we hold ourselves to this standard or above it. We not only represent the company we work for, but also ourselves. It is impossible to act unethically at work, and it not affect other aspects of your life.

Following your company’s business ethics is generally a condition of employment. The most successful professionals also subscribe to and apply their own personal code of ethics. Simply put, ethics is doing the right thing. But it extends beyond that. Do the right thing, even when it may cost more, you may lose out or it is not the popular thing to do.

We often hear about people getting in trouble for the misuse of company funds at an executive level, but it can happen to anyone. Many times in this position you become friends with the suppliers you work with. Your desire to help a supplier’s passion for their product or service can create a certain synergy and a mutual bond of respect and admiration. From here, it can get better or it can go awry. Diversity professionals have to balance what sometimes becomes competing interests between personal friendships and professional interests to follow ethics guidelines.

How many times are we offered free products, services or monetary gifts for helping clients get into the corporate supply chain? Friends and family would love to enjoy the hospitality suite on your company’s expense, and could it hurt to provide a little information for a chance to sit courtside? For some, the line gets blurred. There is a certain amount of power associated with directing a department, delegating funds and being the decision-maker. There are many who relish the opportunity to just get a conversation with us. We can’t fall prey to the perils of accepting gifts in return of favor, manipulation of suppliers for self-gain or misuse of company funds.

Remaining ethical is critical to your success and the success of the company. When you are not sure if a request or an action is ethical, ask yourself a few questions before proceeding:

  1. Is it unlawful, against company policy or against your personal ethics code?
  2. Could a result of this situation be damaging to the company, a supplier or yourself?
  3. Which option treats all stakeholders fairly?

If we take a moment to consider these three questions before acting, we can help to ensure our behavior is ethical and everyone wins. Let’s go and do the right thing!